The minister of social welfare gender and children’s affairs, Mrs. Shirley Y. Gbujama, will today receive keys to the newly-refurbished Approved School at Wellington, Freetown, from the Justice Sector Development Programme (JSDP).
JSDP applies a multi-sector approach, working with all stakeholders who have a part to play in delivering justice, and juvenile justice is paramount to its operations.
In the JSDP January-June 2006 work plan, the task force approved the start of renovations to the Approved School to respond to the needs of children and young persons in conflict with the law, by creating for them a more enabling environment, so as to enhance their reform.
This is in line with the principles of best interest of the child, as outlined in the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Children, which explain that laws and actions affecting children should always put their interest first and benefit them in the most favourable way.
The Approved School, constructed in 1919, is the only national institution responsible for reformation, where children below the age of 18 are sent for a maximum of three years, if the juvenile court decides that they will need special care, attention and counselling to change and influence their lives for the better. The institution is within the purview of the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs (MoSWGCA).
As most of the Approved School’s buildings were in a state of disrepair, in the first quarter of 2006, JSDP intervened, holding consultations with MoSWGCA staff, children living in the School and technical experts, to evaluate the current condition of the institution and to map out actions for its infrastructural rehabilitation.
A workable area within the 42 acres of the Approved School land was then identified and demarcated. A perimeter fence was constructed, serving as an enclosure for renovation, to include the following: The laundry room, the boys and girls’ dormitories, the kitchen, the technical workshop, the infirmary, a store, three staff quarters, one water well and a football field.
Space was also made available for vegetable and flower gardens.
The refurbishment of the Approved School, which is JSDP’s largest infrastructure intervention to date, provides an opportunity to explore long-term solutions to address juvenile justice in a holistic and child-friendly manner.